Monday, February 27, 2017

Part III: AI or Humanity--Can AI and Humans Play Nice?

Much of what has been said about AI in the past has been tied to the field of Robotics. From books such as" I, Robot" by Isaac Asimov to t.v and movie series such as Star Trek to movies series such as the Terminator movies, artificial intelligence life forms have been portrayed more as a threat to humanity than as a support and aid to humanity. Much of what was written and portrayed suggested that humanity needed to develop ways to limit artificial intelligence life forms from evolving to become more dominant over man.


In Asimov's "I, Robot", guidelines were programmed into robots that placed limits on their development.

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The great fear was that the AI would advance to the point where human beings were not needed to be involved in the working life of societies at all and at worst that AI beings would become sentient or self aware beings such as what was portrayed in the Star Trek: The Next Generation with "Commander Data". For the "baby boomer" generation, the words of  H.A.L. in the movie titled: "2001-A Space Odyssey" still haunt our memories.


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With self aware AI beings some were predicting that these new self aware beings would determine that humanity was too deeply flawed to pay attention to and that necessary resources of the planet could be better utilized through the elimination of humanity.

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Jerry Caplan, an expert in the field of AI describes what we should all know about AI and its potential impact on our lives in general and business organization that are striving to compete in a global economy. Although the following YouTube segment is a little long, it is worthwhile to get a good understanding of what AI means to us.

Credit: Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs

How Should Business Organizations Plan?

In a Canadian news broadcast this week (Feb. 6, 2017) an economic think tank predicted that 40 % of the present jobs will be taken over by automation. Statistics for other countries can be easily found but I would predict that the percentage is higher in countries such as the United States, Great Britain, China & India. The results of such a prediction coming to pass can be reduced to two events:

  • Disruption of societies due to the increase of unemployed workers which not only then places the social support networks of such countries under duress but also creates a crisis for governments in trying to balance their books. The cascading effect for business organizations means loss of potential sales.
  • A second possibility is that decision makers take note of the pace of change and then take steps to enable employees to retrain with the goal of acquiring new skillsets that technology will create a need for. This means having a plan driven by a vision of how new technology will be integrated in the way the business organization does business.


The idea of coming up with an effective plan recognizes the need to be proactive rather than reactive because the future of your best assets, your employees, is at stake. Engaging them with a clear vision of the way forward and how they are integral to that plan is an essential.

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We also need to heed the warnings given by very intelligent leaders about regarding the potential drawbacks to using artificial intelligence. The drawbacks arise if we fail to recognize that there is a moral imperative in how we move ahead in the adoption of new technologies. The question that innovators, scientists, business leaders, and technology leaders need to ask is:

"Just because we have the technology to do this, should we do this?"

Views of Intelligent Leaders On the Use of Artificial Intelligence

Some very intelligent and well respected leaders in technology and science have been quick to voice their concerns about the rapid adoption of artificial intelligence:


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As ominous as these statements appear, AI will continue to be integrated into the fabric of business organizations and our daily lives.

The integration of AI based "intelligent assistants" into the fabric of our lives will advance faster  than even the growth of social media.

Credit: BI Intelligence, 2015

Besides the development of online chatbots integrated into the global online business presence, with the advancement of Microsoft Hololens technology we will see intelligent assistants take holographic form as in the example of Cortana.


Discussion of the advances of technology and business is all well and good but the question still remains:

"How do businesses get started on a proactive path in adopting AI and what part can e-Learning play in this?"

Some very important business understandings need to be considered:

Credit: Frank Diana (2015)

Five First Steps for Planning for the Adoption of AI into a Business Organization

  1. Identify work areas within the business that involve repetitive, time consuming actions that could better be served by automation. It is important to re-task the talents of employees involved in such labour to higher skilled positions.
  2. Create learning profiles for employees that identify present talents that they have and then plot areas of potential growth for them so that they advance to higher skillsets that will be required as technology advances.
  3. Create a "technology sandbox" both within the organization and online where employees can go to try out new technologies and applications. Time should be timetabled in where employees have the opportunity to try out these new areas of learning and the online site for this should be open to employees 24/7.
  4. Hire a "learning principles guru or expert" who will have the responsibility of tracking employee learning and presenting new opportunities for employees to advance their skillsets into new areas of technology and applications. This individual should have a separate line for advancement within the organization.
  5. Create a "learning culture" within the organization that encourages employee engagement in innovative and creative thinking. The environment should involve a forum where employees may collaborate with each other in the organization but  on a global scale. The opportunity should be available for a collaborative group to present and defend innovative ideas that they have come up with.

Business Prospects for the Further Development of Chatbots in Business

The operative goal in the use of chatbots in business organizations is to free up employees so they can focus on the higher end skillsets that involve creativity and innovation. This is in line with what a firm called Venture Radar predicts.
These are just a few ideas to promote more discussion within business organizations about how this might take shape in their own specific context.

As for the warnings about AI, as much as we would like AI intelligent assistants to become more and more human, we have to keep in mind that the model, the human being, that we are using is far from perfect and like Asimov's three laws of robotics, we need to make sure that what we do with AI technology leads to a better quality of life for all people and not just those who have business interests.

Next: "Exploring the Dark Side of Big Data"

Monday, February 13, 2017

Part II: 21st Century Technology and Business Organizations-The Year 2016 Trends

The previous question that decision makers need to consider stated:

"With the explosion of technology advancement in 2016, how do I know which technologies will allow my organization to compete effectively in the globally connected economy?

To begin to answer this question, you need to do some honest, professional introspection  as a group of decision makers and ask yourselves whether or not your mindset is still entrenched in the ideas of the industrial economy which has been the foundation for business vision, mission and drive since the Industrial Revolution or have you come to the realization that this particular mindset is anachronistic given the new realities of 21st century societies and you desire to make change work?

Mindset defines and directs vision, mission and drive in building the future of an organization. So, this process needs to be considered in the light of what actually is happening in the global economy and also in the lives of employees.

Technology Trends of 2016: Gauging the Impact On Business

During the year 2016, the following technologies came into the limelight and much speculation was offered on such technologies could revolutionize business as we know it:

  • Microlearning
  • Mobile Learning
  • Virtual Reality and Augmented Technology
  • Gamification
  • Blended Learning
  • MOOC's
  • Big Data
  • Social Media
  • IoT
Much has been written about each of these technologies in relation to their potential for changing business but there is a technology that has been evolving in the background, out of the limelight that all of the listed technologies will be impacted by and stands to have a much greater impact on business organizations than those listed. The technologies being referred to here are called  "intelligent agents or bots" and "Artificial Intelligence".


The Rise of the Intelligent Machine or Agent and Business Change

Right now as some business decision makers read this, their eyes are probably glossing over and they saying to themselves this technology will have no credible impact on my business organization. First it is wise to define what we mean by the terms that we are using. 
Credit: Shehzad Ashraf (2014)
 It is worth noting that in the above definition that the list of things that humans do better has already shrunk due to the effects of Moore's law on technology growth. If computers using AI are doing things better than humans already ten the natural progression for the use of AI by machines takes the form of the "bot" or "intelligent agent".

Credit: Yisela Trentini (2016)
Putting these two ideas together into a business context, we start to see why employees have good reason for concern in regards to their future job security. Simply put, the advantages of an intelligent machine over a human are:
  • Intelligent machines are more efficient and can mass produce product faster, requiring no breaks other than scheduled maintenance. This means increased productivity without loss of time since the machines can work 24/7. What needs to be noted is the nature of the work that the machines are more productive and efficient at doing.


Before rushing to judgment, consider the following ways that Artificial Intelligence and intelligent agents can be beneficial in moving business organizations into more favourable positions for growth in the 21st century global economy by first looking at what features bring to the table.

Credit: Monique Calisti
What this means for business organizations in regards to the use of the intellectual capital resting in their employees is that they need to capitalize on the talents of their employees by effectively helping them develop higher order skillsets in their learning that will at the same time enable them to work with and capitalize on the features that AI and intelligent agents have to offer.

Chatbots and Business Organizations

One of the rising uses of AI in relation to business organizations is the development of the "Chatbot". 

Credit: Teewee Ang
This trend only predicted in 2014 by the CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, is already moving ahead in the integration of chatbots into a variety of business contexts.

At this point in time, these very pertinent series of questions should occur to you:

"What precisely is a chatbot? How can it be utilized in our business organization and will we like the cost?"

Credit: Teewee Ang
If this sounds somewhat familiar it is because we have already seen innovative glimpses of it in such science fiction movies as the Avengers. Of particular note is the character of Ironman (Tony Stark) and the relationship that he has with his "intelligent AI assistants". What should occur to you is that in using chatbots, a new type of cross disciplinary thinking skillset will be required in order to interact with intelligent assistants.


If at this point you feel yourself becoming skeptical keep in mind that many of humanity's innovations were first predicted in science fiction. For example the use of Lasers, scanners...etc were first predicted in science fiction and lest we forget the works of Jules Verne's innovation of a nuclear powered submarine, the Nautilus, we should endeavour to keep an open mind.

However, returning to our questions, how will chatbots be of value to business organizations?

 As can be seen, there is a number of business goals that chatbots can help reach in making a business organization more effective in the globally connected business economy. What this does for the learning culture of a business organization is that it enables employees to re-direct their time to collaboration and innovation thinking which represent the highest levels of human talent, with the decision makers being able to engage and make connections with employees in the learning culture and guide the vision of the organization.


A Practical Example Of A Business Chatbot: The HR Assistant

An HR individual reading this title might think this is suggesting that his or her role in the business organization is at risk but it is not. With the introduction of AI and intelligent assistants into the learning culture of a business, re-definition of various roles is an effect but it is not a negative one but in fact an enriching positive one for the individuals involved. Emphasis is placed upon their best qualities and talents while relegating repetitive but necessary time consuming tasks to an AI HR assistant.



Drawbacks To AI Assistants?

You may have noticed that the questions above have not all been answered. The reason deals with what some very highly intelligent people have been warning about the adoption of AI. This deals with conflicting visions of the future use of AI as a help to humanity and it has ramifications for business organizations. The final segment will look at what is being said in a world already living on edge in many respects.

Part III: AI Or Humanity - Can AI And Humans Play Nice?